Kairos Came at the Right Time for Members of Fenwick’s 2021 Class

While students continued to endure the pandemic’s negative effects, the senior retreat personified the Dominican Pillar of Community.

By Nick Polston ’21

The iconic Fenwick atrium is my favorite part of the entire school. In the morning, walking through this part of the building signifies an exciting day ahead. In the afternoon, the speckled, marble floor glints in the sunlight that shines through the glass entrance, and I contribute to the after-school commotion as I joke with my friends. For over three years, however, I often failed to acknowledge an integral piece of this room’s welcoming beauty.

Four large banners hang above the atrium’s second set of doors, each one embroidered with a pillar of the Dominican faith: Community, Service, Study and Prayer. I learned about these values extensively in my theology classes and read about them in Fenwick newsletters; however, with all the time I spent in that Fenwick atrium during my first three years of high school, I surprisingly never took the time to stop, look up and reflect. Of course, there were plenty of mornings when I walked into school with my head down, going over some mental notes for a first-period test or simply tired from homework and football practice the night before. Only Mr. Ritten’s cheerful emphatic “GOOD MORNING!” was enough to lift my gaze. Yet all the while, those banners hung there, watching over me. It was not until my Kairos experience senior year that I truly recognized the importance of those four pillars.

Fenwick student-athlete Nick Polston ’21 (Riverside, IL) “starred” in the classroom as a Friars’ President Award recipient. He plans to study finance and business at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO.

It is difficult to write about my Kairos experience without giving away the activities and traditions that make the retreat so impactful, but I will do my best. Arriving at Fenwick for the three-day retreat was scary at first, even as I sat in the comfort of the atrium. I was surrounded by classmates whom I did not know well, much less with whom I could see myself sharing in the intimacy that I believed Kairos engendered. However, once we boarded the bus that would take us to the Bellarmine Retreat House, we began to talk with each other about the colleges we were attending, the sports we played and some of our favorite Fenwick memories.

After arriving an hour later, we were placed in our ‘small groups.’ Admittedly, I was nervous once again after my group assignment; it was comprised of classmates with whom I had not had a conversation since freshman year history class, and I nearly regretted my decision to attend Kairos without my close friends. Over the course of the next three days, however, my small group truly became my family. It is still shocking to me how 72 hours with a group of people I had only seen occasionally in the halls of Fenwick could turn into a support system that I know I can count on forever. Being with my small group gave me the courage to express myself and listen to others, because I knew that I was in a trusted, safe environment.

The Pillar of Community

As cliché as it may seem, Kairos gave me the perspective to truly appreciate not only the similarities between myself and others, but also the differences that make us all so unique. It was at Kairos that I began to understand the importance of Community in the Dominican faith. Judgement, shame and negativity were left at the door of Bellarmine House and replaced with courage, love and support. Kairos created a bond between my classmates and me that has yet to fade and may just remain with me forever.

Polston played baseball and football all four years at Fenwick. As a senior during the historic spring football season of 2021, he was a team co-captain and earned All-Conference honors as a defensive back and quarterback. (Photo courtesy of Oak Park Wednesday Journal.)

I once read that praying with others is an amazing way to grow spiritually, as you carry the burdens and intentions of others with you as you pray. Kairos was especially unique in this manner. After sharing stories with classmates and internalizing the struggles and triumphs of peers, praying together at the end of the day was yet another way my Kairos group became closer as a community. I realized that prayer should not only serve as petition and intercession but as praise and thanksgiving for the blessings God gave me in my life.

One of my Kairos leaders told me, “You get out of Kairos what you put into Kairos,” and I certainly found this to be true over the three days we spent at Bellarmine Retreat House. Everyone is affected differently by their experience at Kairos; however, if you put effort into participating in the activities, expressing your feelings and listening to others, this retreat will be one of the best times of your life.

My advice to future students who will attend Kairos is to treat the experience with respect. Respect the courage of fellow students, teachers and leaders. Respect the amount of trust they have in you, and you, too, will find the courage to express yourself. Kairos is a refreshing, life-changing three days that changed my perspective on life. When I return to Fenwick, I will never fail to look up and see the four banners that hang above the atrium entrance. Living my life by incorporating the four Dominican pillars is to inherently “live the fourth.” Those who have been on Kairos know what I mean, but to the future students who are waiting to go on their Kairos retreat, I guess you will have to wait and find out.

Fenwick Adopts “One Book, One Fenwick” Model for Student Summer Reading

Inaugural program to debut with A Raisin in the Sun.

This year, as part of its Summer Reading Program, Fenwick High School debuts “One Book, One Fenwick.” For the first time since formal, summer reading began at Fenwick, the Catholic high school is announcing one shared book to read among all students – as well as those within the greater Fenwick community who wish to participate. The selection, A Raisin in the Sun, actually is a play written by the late Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965).

“We tip our hats to Chicago Public Library’s ‘One Book, One Chicago’ for the inspiration,” said John Schoeph, English Department Chair and a 1995 alumnus of Fenwick. The “One Book, One Fenwick” program seeks to unite all students and members of the Fenwick community through a shared book, Schoeph and his English Dept. colleagues explained. “We envision the program offering platforms and avenues for book-related information, discussions and learning.”

While activities are taking place across disciplines in Fenwick classrooms, Fenwick’s English Dept. hopes to see parents, alumni and friends of the school get involved through a variety of offerings related to the book. “It is our hope that a common text can foster intellectual interaction and friendly discourse between and among the many groups that make up Fenwick’s vast family and network,” the committee proclaimed. A few of the experiences in the works include multiple book chats open to the wider Fenwick family, in-class discussions across the subjects, performances of passages by Theater Fundamentals students, and an all-school assembly celebrating “One Book” in late September.

Committee member and fellow English Teacher Kyle Perry, a 2001 Fenwick graduate, noted: “We look forward to the opportunity of improving students’ literacy while also building a stronger sense of community here at Fenwick.”

Inaugural title choice

Poet Langston Hughes penned what has now become a celebrated question in his 1951 poem, “Harlem:” “What happens to a dream deferred?” Among the possible answers is that it might dry up “like a raisin in the sun.” Hansberry’s 1959 play follows the Youngers, an African-American family, as they seek the American Dream in Chicago. When the Youngers inherit a $10,000 insurance check (equivalent to more than $90,000 today), they pursue wishes for entrepreneurship, education and, especially, a house of their own in Clybourne Park, a white neighborhood. Through A Raisin in the Sun’s engagement with topics and themes from across the American literary canon, including assimilation, class, race, gender, hope, pride and family relationships, the play addresses Hughes’ question: “What happens to a dream deferred?”

Mr. Schoeph

“We have enjoyed an incredibly successful summer reading program for years,” Schoeph continued. “Our students read and tend to enjoy the selections. We didn’t want to grow complacent with our success but sought to find a way to bolster the program, to inject it with something exciting and unifying. After exchanging several ideas, we decided on the ‘One Book, One Fenwick’ model. Witnessing the entire English Department enthusiastic about this new dimension to our summer reading program warmed my heart as chair.”

Acts of Kindness: Fighting COVID in Ohio

More than a year into the Coronavirus pandemic, a Fenwick alumnus, whose class is celebrating its 50th reunion this fall, reflects on the pandemic from the perspective of a front-line health care professional.

By Dr. James Tita ‘71

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. Most physicians go through their entire career and never experience an event of this magnitude. As a physician who specializes in pulmonary and critical-care medicine, I found myself confronting an illness that had never afflicted humans.

The SARS-Cov-2 virus, identified only in bats previously, was reported in late 2019 from Wuhan, China, as the cause of an outbreak of a severe viral pneumonia. The illness appeared to be very contagious and frequently deadly. There had been limited outbreaks of two other similar coronavirus illnesses within the last 15 to 20 years, but SARS-Cov-2 virus appeared to be much more contagious. Our fascination with the medical reports coming out China soon turned to dread as the virus spread to Europe and beyond.

I recall our public health authorities estimating that, based on a handful of positive tests in Ohio, the virus had infected 6,000 people across the state by mid-March 2020. By the end of that month, our hospitals went into crisis mode as they were overwhelmed by the number of patients with COVID pneumonia. Elective surgeries were canceled, and most of the hospital was filled with critically ill COVID patients on ventilators. Many were elderly and frail. Supplies such as N-95 masks, gloves and gowns were in short supply and had to be re-used.

Since there were no effective treatments, we offered largely supportive care. Because of the need for strict isolation, families were not allowed to visit, even at end of life. The isolation this caused only added to the anguish and despair. We tried to facilitate video visits, but most times the patients were too sedated to communicate.

Watch the heart-wrenching video from a Toledo, local TV news station.

Dr. Tita is Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, OH.

Caring for patients became difficult because of the constant need for personal protective equipment. The fear that any of us could become infected, and potentially spread the disease to our families, was always present. And yet, despite the long hours and difficult and stressful conditions, our nurses, respiratory therapists and staff demonstrated a level of professionalism, teamwork and compassion that was inspirational. Acts of kindness were easy to find.

Ebb and flow

By summer, the number of new cases had fallen dramatically, and our COVID caseloads dropped. The hospitals started to open for elective surgeries. People grew tired of masking and social distancing and began to let their guard down. It was not uncommon to see large gatherings of people at a party or other event. Unfortunately, the virus was not gone and, by late fall and winter, our case numbers began to skyrocket. Hospital beds again filled with COVID patients.

This second surge was different, however. The average age was about 10 years younger than in the spring. We don’t know why exactly but believe it was related to the fact that the nursing homes, through strictly limiting visitation, were able to keep their residents safe. I think we got better at managing the illness as well. We used more alternatives to invasive ventilation, such as high-flow oxygen. We also had a drug (dexamethasone), which was modestly effective at treating those who had severe pneumonia. (Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid used in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects.)

But despite these small improvements, the United States recorded its highest daily COVID death numbers in January this year at more than 4,000 deaths. We are closing in on nearly 600,000 deaths in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vaccine relief

Fenwick faculty and staff had opportunities to receive the COVID vaccine this past winter.

From my perspective, a turning point came in late November when the FDA gave Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer vaccine and, shortly thereafter, to the Moderna vaccine. Last summer we could only dream about an effective vaccine for this illness. While some worry that these vaccines were “rushed into production,” the technology for mRNA vaccines was developed nearly 10 years ago. The Chinese, early in the pandemic, were able to map out the entire viral genome. From there, we were able to find the sequence that coded for the spike protein on the surface of the virus; insert this sequence using nanotechnology into a lipid coat, and the vaccine was complete. These mRNA vaccines have been extraordinarily safe and effective. I was among the first to receive the vaccine in December and strongly recommend the same to all members of the community. The more people we get vaccinated, the less the virus can replicate and the less chance for variants to occur. (Fenwick faculty and staff received first shots in late February.)

For those who recover from COVID, approximately 10% to 30% develop post-acute syndrome. These “long-haulers,” as they are referred to, can suffer lingering symptoms for weeks to months after the infection. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, racing heart, cough and headache. Many other symptoms have been described including prolonged loss of taste and smell, sleep disturbances and GI [gastrointestinal] problems. Most people with this syndrome were not hospitalized and reported relatively mild COVID symptoms.

We cannot know how and when the pandemic will end. It has been said “the virus will do what the virus will do.” However, given the outbreaks occurring in India and South America, it is likely that COVID will become endemic. [An endemic is a disease that belongs to a particular people or country.] Vaccine hesitancy has stalled vaccination rates in our communities and does not bode well for the U.S. to reach herd immunity. Local outbreaks, such as the one occurring in Michigan currently, are likely to continue until more of the population becomes vaccinated.

Pandemics change history, and it is likely our lives and world will be changed as well. Only in retrospect will we understand the significance of this pandemic.

About the Author

James Tita’s Blackfriars yearbook photo from 1971. The Berwyn boy was a member of the National Honor Society and German Club as well as a debater and Illinois State Scholar semi-finalist.

A native of Berwyn, IL, Fenwick alumnus James Tita is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. A specialist in pulmonary and critical-care medicine, Dr. Tita is the Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio.

Fenwick among Chicago-area Schools Addressing Racial Inequity

Teenage students share their vision for a better educational environment.

Student representatives from Fenwick, Brother Rice, Nazareth Academy and 22 Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago are coming together to address racial inequities. In partnership with DePaul University, students and school advisers from archdiocesan and independently run high schools gathered online last winter in a series of virtual meetings “to identify challenges in their respective schools and potential solutions to achieve racial justice and equity,” reports Joyce Duriga, editor of the Chicago Catholic newspaper. “Students presented their work to Cardinal Cupich on April 16 during an online meeting.”

“The group, comprising eight students and two staff advisers from each participating high school, began meeting online in February to discuss problems and solutions in their schools with the goal of promoting equality,” continued Ms. Duriga. “During the monthly meetings, each school was asked to create a vision for racial justice represented in ‘jam [vision] boards’ with each school developing individual commitments to racial justice and equity ….” The program developed by DePaul is RISE: Catholic Students RISE for Racial Equity. RISE stands for the process of reflection, inquiry, self-awareness and empathy, according to an April 27th Archdiocese news release.

Fenwick participants are members of the DEI Friars, a group of current students, moderated by faculty members, who lead the conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the student level. DEI Friars focus on messaging in the school, promotion of DEI, and being a safe place to hear concerns from students and faculty about issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion in the building, according to the school’s DEI Director Raymond Moland ’96. Senior Vivian Nguyen ’21 (Westchester, IL) is one Fenwick student who decided to get involved. She and three of her classmates — Vaughn-Regan Bledsoe (Maywood, IL), Belema Hart (Oak Brook, IL) and Claire Woods (Brookfield, IL) — also are members of the DEI Friars, a student group focused on diversity, equity and inclusion within the school.

Led by the initiative of Ms. Nguyen, who has one younger brother at Fenwick and another brother entering in the fall, this is the student body’s statement:

Fenwick High School will commit to racial equity by first acknowledging that injustice exists, and then creating a diversely educated and inclusive environment for our students so that we can look at our world through multiple unbiased lenses. By implementing initiatives identified by the Director of DEI, we will further support and focus on the diversity of our students and staff.”

For the Archdiocesan project with the Cardinal, “our students were charged with using the Jamboard as a tool to explain and provide a rationale about the improvements they want to see within Fenwick,” explains Mr. Moland. Jamboard is a digital, interactive whiteboard developed by Google LLC. Here is their breakdown (see above image):

One word that you see throughout our Jamboard is DIVERSITY. We believe that increasing diversity in the student body and within the administration and faculty will help eliminate many issues of injustice we have seen in our school.

We believe that in order for change to happen, we must recognize what the truth is. We have to admit the truth: the truth that we are bound by racism and inequality. We cannot embrace diversity until we understand the truth behind our differences.

The use of HEART and MIND.

Education is one of the most important parts in creating a change. Biases are taught, whether by parents, teachers, peers or the media. Early exposure to diversity and education of racial justice can alter the way a generation sees the world. A change in curriculum at Fenwick through the addition of books by authors of color, a POC [person of color] perspective, and integration of diversity in different subjects will offer the students a new point of view.

Injustice in our school and society extends beyond race. Racism, homophobia, ableism, classism are examples of injustice we see every day. If we do not actively stand against injustice, we are indirectly standing for it. Being passive and doing nothing is just as bad as contributing to the problem. “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton

We want to see students/teachers of color be able to express themselves freely. A culture day/week might provide us a time and place to allow POC to embrace their cultural differences through clothing, food, music, dance and more.

➢ We want incoming freshmen to feel at home as soon as possible. An outreach program that helps them connect with/shadow POC upperclassmen can be beneficial to their experience at Fenwick High School. Students will be more comfortable knowing that there are people that look like them and care about them in this new environment.

Fenwick Repeats as ACES State Champion!

Friars rank number one in Illinois’ Academic Challenge in Engineering and Science (ACES) STEM competition among schools with less than 1,500 students.

For the second consecutive year, Fenwick High School has finished first in Illinois in the Academic Challenge in Engineering and Science (ACES) competition, formerly known as the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program. “We are the top STEM school in a division that includes all high schools in the state with 1,500 students or fewer,” reported David Kleinhans, ACES moderator and chair of the Fenwick Physics/ Computer Science Department. “Twenty-four schools competed at the State competition in our division.

Mr. Kleinhans

“We also finished second when looking at schools in our multi-state region,” Mr. Kleinhans continued, “to Clayton High School in Missouri by eight points out of 500 total points. Congratulations to their team and all the other competitors.” This year marks the tenth consecutive year that the Friars have reached the state finals. Since 2012, Fenwick is the only Illinois school to win a first, second or third place State trophy each year — and the only Catholic school to finish in the top three spots.

Approximately one year ago, Kleinhans shared that Fenwick won the IL State ACES science contest for the 2019-21 academic year. “In addition, Fenwick bested all the Missouri schools in attendance to finish first in the Midwest region,” he noted. “I was so proud of our students and their perseverance through the switch to eLearning and eTesting amid the onset of COVID-19.” Like last year, the Fenwick 2021 team was undeterred by the online coaching and test-taking, demonstrating tremendous focus, perseverance and “wild intelligence,” according to their proud coach, to capture another state title. The top five students in each subject area received medals. Fenwick’s individual winners are:

One of 10 senior leaders, Anna Dray ’21 is heading to the University of Notre Dame next school year.

Math – 1st Finley Huggins (perfect score!)
Math – 2nd Logan Maue
Physics – 3rd Anna Dray
Physics – 3rd Daniel Majcher
Physics – 3rd Dmytro Olyva
Chemistry – 4th Finley Huggins
English – 4th Katy Nairn

Logan Maue ’21 will continue his studies at the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign).

The 14-member team (by class year and in alphabetical order):

SENIORS

  • Anna Abuzatoaie ’21 (Melrose Park, IL, Grace Lutheran School) – either Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania, or University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Cluj-Napoca, Romania (TBD) 
  • Anthony Battaglia ’21 (Melrose Park, IL, Grace Lutheran School) – University of Notre Dame
  • Katie Cahill ’21 (River Forest, IL, Roosevelt Middle School) – University of Michigan
  • Anna Dray ’21 (Elmhurst, IL, Immaculate Conception Grade School) – University of Notre Dame
  • Therese Giannini ’21 (Wood Dale, IL, Immaculate Conception Grade School, Elmhurst) – Loyola University Chicago
  • Jacob Korus ’21 (River Grove, IL, St. Cyprian Catholic School) – undecided
  • Daniel Majcher ’21 (Chicago, Keystone Montessori School, River Forest) – Northwestern University
  • Logan Maue ’21 (Oak Park, IL, St. Giles Catholic School) – University of Illinois
  • Mary Rose Nelligan ’21 (Oak Park, IL, Ascension Catholic School) – University of Notre Dame
  • Dmytro Olyva ’21 (Cicero, IL, St. Giles Catholic School, Oak Park) ­ – University of Illinois
Finley Huggins ’22 is one of four juniors on the team.

JUNIORS

  • Vince Beltran ’22 (Berwyn, IL, Heritage Middle School)
  • Zach Dahhan ’22 (Elmwood Park, IL, Elm Middle School)
  • Finley Huggins ’22 (Oak Park, IL, Ascension Catholic School)
  • Katy Nairn ’22 (Lombard, IL, Glenn Westlake Middle School)

How to Set the World Afire

Love is like a Northwood’s campfire, spreading warmth amid our world of darkness and sin.

By Fenwick Student Preaching Team Member Mia Scharpf ’22 (Berwyn, IL)

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine, doctor of the Church, patron saint of Italy and Rome, and a Dominican. She dedicated her life to God from a very young age and fought to defend what she called “the vessel of the Church” with her letters and treatise “The Dialogue of Divine Providence.” She was born in 1347 and canonized in 1461.

St. Catherine of Siena

She asks us to “set the world on fire” in several of her quotes and we often hear fire used as a religious symbol in sacraments and the Bible. Tongues of fire came down to the Apostles on Pentecost, God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, John said Jesus will baptize us with fire.

Fire has many purposes and properties. We use it for cooking and for s’mores, and it is the centerpiece of a night at the lake as we laugh with family and friends. Fire helps us stay warm when we are cold and it can help us see when the night is dark. Fire is powerful enough to change what it touches completely; it spreads rapidly and is difficult to extinguish.

Each summer for as long as I can remember, my family has visited my neighbor’s lake house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Days are filled with boating, driving into town, eating too many cinnamon donuts, falling off of tubes and water skis, and they’re ended with all 20 of us sitting around the fire singing with my dad as he plays his guitar. When the sun sets, it gets very cold and dark and the mosquitoes come out in swarms. Without the fire, it would be difficult to find the path to the bunkhouse, it would be freezing cold, and the bugs would eat everyone alive. 

This fire is very similar to the fire described in St. Catherine’s quote. Instead of keeping mosquitoes away and shedding light on a path strewn with pine needles, the fire in St. Catherine’s quote provides warmth and light to a world of darkness and sin. It illuminates the path of Christ and reveals the way of love and joy. It allows us to feel the warmth of His unconditional and transformational love. 

“Be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

– St. Catherine of Siena

But how do we live as who God made us to be? How do we ignite that spark? The first thing that will probably come to mind is service and volunteer work, but there’s so much more to who God created us to be. We each have been given gifts and talents, and instead of burying them in the ground, God calls us to use them to glorify His name. Whether you are a swimmer, a runner, a singer, or an actor, you can give glory to God by working hard at practice or improving in rehearsal. It’s like receiving a sweatshirt from your grandma for Christmas, and when she sees you wearing it proudly, she feels appreciated and loved. When we use our blessings for good, we give thanks to God and live as he made us to be.

St. Catherine used her gifts to make a difference and protect the Church. She fanned her spark into a flame and set the world on fire with her words and works. St. Catherine asks us all to follow her example of spreading God’s love by sharing our blessings. We are called to set our world on fire with this love, to spread its warmth and light, so powerful that it can transform whoever accepts it. I’m certain St. Catherine chose this symbol because love can spread like, well, fire.

ANOTHER STUDENT PREACHER BLOG INSPIRED BY SAINT CATHERINE

The Giraffe Plan

When their nanny died young and tragically from breast cancer last fall, Fenwick students Wil ’21 and Leah Gurski ’23 knew they had to do something for her young son, Adam. But what?

By Wil Gurski ’21 (Oak Park, IL)

When God calls someone to be a mother, that virtue doesn’t only nurture her own child but cultivates all of those she influences.

Hi! My name is Wil Gurski, and I would like to tell you a story about a woman who fulfilled God’s call to compassion and left a lasting impression on my sister Leah [a Fenwick sophomore] and me.

Young Leah Gurski ’23 (left) and Viola after a manicure for Leah’s birthday.

Eighteen years ago, I was blessed with a second mother, Viola, when she started to take care of me at six months old. She taught me how to count to 10 in Polish, read me bedtime stories from her hometown of Krakow, and she would always take my sister and me to the zoo. Most summers we would go to Brookfield Zoo at least once a week. And every time we went, Viola would insist that we stop by the giraffe enclosure to take pictures. Without a doubt her favorite animal was the giraffe, and, in hindsight, a proud, compassionate and protective mother giraffe perfectly embodies her.

A few years later she had a son, named Adam; naturally, he became a brother to Leah and me. To this day, Adam still gets me in trouble. We play basketball together in the backyard, Minecraft until 1 a.m., watch the exact same TV shows, and one summer we spent the entire day
walking from park to park playing Pokémon Go.

Wil, Leah and Adam celebrating Adam’s first communion.

Then, in August 2020, Viola was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it had tragically spread throughout her body. She soon passed away on September 26th, devastating everyone who had been touched by her kindness.

My sister and I knew we had to do something to help little Adam and his Dad. A few weeks later, Leah came up with the brilliant idea to sell clothing to raise money for Adam’s college tuition. She figured that it would make a big difference for the family if Adam’s future was more secure. So, we decided to create The Giraffe Plan LLC, inspired by Viola’s favorite animal, to spread her love and confidence the same way she did for us.

Viola and a little, four-year-old Adam.

Leah and I know how much an average college charges in tuition, so we had to think big. A simple fundraiser could not cover the amount we needed to raise, but a business could. A business in which all of the profits go directly into Adam’s college savings plan.

Fellow Friar water polo player Pete Buinauskas ’21 (Western Springs, IL) poses in a Giraffe Plan sweatshirt with OPRF senior Isabel Evens.

With our mission in mind, we turned to the most gifted (and patient) graphic designer we knew, Fenwick junior Dylan Fu. He helped design our logos, sweatshirts, website, social media and so much more. Additionally, senior Maddie Miller drafted a six-page marketing plan and a seven-page sponsorship proposal. My Fenwick peers were vital help in securing an awesome sponsorship for our business. A sponsor paid for our entire stock of sweatshirts and financed our LLC, allowing us to donate all of the revenue we receive — without any overhead costs.

My sister and I are incredibly humbled by all of the support we have received in setting up this venture: from friends who have financially supported us, those who have donated their legal counsel, and all who have just believed in us and our mission. Most of all, we are truly grateful for people like you who take the time out of their day to listen to our story. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Check out the website:

THE GIRAFFE PLAN

Adam and Viola sitting in front of the wall of Legos that Adam and Wil assembled. (There is a little giraffe above them.)
Leah and Wil’s Aunt Margie (holding baby Adam) with Viola and her husband, who is also named Adam.
Fenwick swimmers turned Giraffe Plan “models:” Michael Flynn ’22 (left, Brookfield, IL) and Pete Buinauskas ’21 (Western Springs, IL) posing in sweatshirts.

Nothing Great Is Ever Achieved without Challenges

Senior student preacher reflects on faith at school Mass for St. Catherine of Siena.

By Joey Schultz ’21 (Clarendon Hills, IL)

Today, we come together to celebrate the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine was born during the 1300s in Siena, Italy during the middle of the Black Plague. She was a Dominican laywoman who devoted her entire life to serving the sick and poor.

During the time of St. Catherine, the pope was living lavishly in Avignon, France, instead of in Rome where the Pope traditionally lived. Catherine realized the problem and called for reform in the Church. She also demanded that the pope move back to Rome, and she ended up playing a key role in moving the papacy back to Rome. Perhaps, Catherine’s biggest impact upon the Catholic world was her writings, which have led her to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Student Preaching Team member Joey Schultz ’21 is a senior from Clarendon Hills, Illinois.

In looking at some of her writings, I came across a quotation that particularly stood out to me. The words of St. Catherine were, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” There have been many times in my life where I have contemplated my faith. I have questioned God’s existence and role in my life, like I’m sure many of you have.

St. Catherine’s message shows us that there will always be hardships that we endure in order to achieve something great, like a relationship with God. As children of God, we have to persevere through these doubts and pursue a life in complete faith in God. The words of St. Catherine can be brought into our lives as students of Fenwick, too. We as students are called to serve God and be role models for others. It is no easy task to do this, but like St. Catherine said, nothing great is ever achieved without challenges. Everyday we have to endure the grind that is getting up in the morning, going to class, participating in extracurricular activities, coming back home, doing school work, spending time with family and friends, plus many other challenges. On top of all these things, we are expected to live as Christians, through both difficult and easy times.

St. Catherine of Siena (right) is portrayed on stained glass in the Fenwick Chapel.

Have there been any times in your life where you felt too young to make a difference? As a teenager, Catherine was visiting hospitals, helping out the sick and poor. She was such a young woman, yet she was able to make such a big impact on the world around her by devoting her life to serving God and her neighbors. Catherine is a role model, especially for us students, because she shows us that we are never too young to make a difference in the world. Going forward, we should all think of St. Catherine in times of doubt, and we should put our trust in God. 

St. Catherine of Siena serves as a great example of how we should strive to live our lives as Christians. She is an inspiration to all of us, especially women, because of the boundaries and societal norms that she had to break during her time. As a woman during the 14th century, it was much more difficult for her to get into any position of control or influence. Through good works and a passion for justice, she was able to rise up and make a change in the world. St. Catherine shows each and every one of us that we are capable of making a difference in the world through faith and trust in God.

ANOTHER STUDENT PREACHER BLOG INSPIRED BY SAINT CATHERINE

Fenwick TEAMS Wins State!

High-achieving academic results from Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS).


The Fenwick TEAMS team has won State! They defeated their main rivals, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) and University of Chicago Lab School, to be the highest ranked selective school in Illinois for Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS). Our score places Fenwick second in the nation among large selective schools.

The Friars had a perfect essay score from TEAM B (Thérèse Giannini, Dmytro Olyva, Paulina Harnisch and Clare Hill)! Fenwick also had the highest multiple choice and design-build score in all of Illinois from TEAM A (Anna Dray, Ronan Kritsufek, Logan Maue and Dan Majcher).

“The TEAMS competition was remote, but we did have one group in the building,” reports Mr. Roche. The junior group of Zach Dahhan, Katy Nairn, Lily Metz and Hugo Nunez is pictured.

“This is another testament to our high-achieving academic culture cultivated by our school’s wonderful educators,” praises moderator/coach Mr. Kevin Roche ’05, a Fenwick alumnus and self-described “proud moderator who does his best to stay out of the way to let these stars shine. They could not have achieved this effort without all of the excellent Fenwick faculty, who level up these kids daily to be the superstars that they are!”

The team effort was achieved by its 23 members with support from the seemingly 1.000 batting average of Mr. David Kleinhans, who chairs Fenwick’s Computer Science/Physics Department:

SENIORS

Bianca Dimailig
, La Grange, IL (St. Francis Xavier Catholic School)
Anna Dray, Elmhurst, IL (Immaculate Conception Grade School)
Thérèse Giannini, Wood Dale, IL (Immaculate Conception Grade School, Elmhurst)
Paulina Harnisch, River Forest, IL (Ascension Catholic School, Oak Park)
Clare Hill, Western Springs, IL (McClure Junior High)
Ronan Kristufek, Western Springs, IL (McClure Junior High)
Logan Maue, Oak Park, IL (St. Giles School)
Daniel Majcher, Chicago (Keystone Montessori School)
Dmytro Olyva, Cicero, IL (St. Giles School, Oak Park)

JUNIORS

Zachariah Dahhan, Elmwood Park, IL (Elm Middle School)
Paige Davis, Elmhurst, IL (Immaculate Conception Grade School)
LisaGrace Dillon, La Grange Park, IL (St. Francis Xavier Catholic School)
Will Frech, Chicago (St. Josaphat School)
Linden Gierstorf
, Oak Park, IL (Our Lady of the Wayside School, Arlington Heights)
Finley Huggins, Oak Park, IL (Ascension Catholic School)
Katy Nairn
, Lombard, IL (Glenn Westlake Middle School)
Hugo Nunez, Jr.
, Berwyn, IL (St. Leonard Catholic School)
Lilly Metz
, La Grange, IL (William F. Gurrie Middle School)
Grace Simmons, Riverside, IL (St. Mary’s Catholic School)
Will Zimmer
, Oak Park, IL (Ascension Catholic School)


FRESHMEN

Rowan White ’24, Willowbrook, IL (Gower Middle School, Burr Ridge)
Toby Yang
’24, Oak Park, IL (Avery Cooney School, Downers Grove)
Henry Zimmer ’24, Oak Park, IL (Ascension Catholic School)

Congratulations to our State Champions!

4 Seniors from Fenwick Named 2021 Evans Caddie Scholars

Quartet joins more than 15 other Friars, now enrolled at universities around the country, who are fellow recipients of the golf-related, four-year full scholarship.

The Western Golf Association (WGA) and its Evans Scholars Foundation have released the names of four Fenwick High School seniors (in alphabetical order) who will receive the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship for the 2021-25 school years:

Jason Cruz (left) of Chicago/Chicago Academy Elementary School (Sunset Ridge Country Club, Northfield) – Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Cristian Garcia (right) of Chicago/George Rogers Clark Elementary School (Briarwood Country Club, Deerfield) – University of Illinois (Urbana/ Champaign)

Rafal Sieklucki (left) of Chicago/St. Constance (Ridgemoor Country Club, Harwood Heights) – Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)

Alessandra Zuleta (below) of Cicero, IL/Saint Frances of Rome School(Glen View Club, Golf, IL) – Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), probable

Alessandra Zuleta

The four soon-to-be graduates will join more than 15 other former Fenwick students presently enrolled in universities as Evans Scholars, including six from the Class of 2020. (Recent alumnus Gabriel Ruggie ’20, of River Forest, IL/St. Luke Parish School and Oak Park Country Club, was awarded the scholarship after completing his first semester of studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.) Each award covers full tuition and housing for four years. An additional 256 Evans Scholarships are being awarded to other Class of ’21 caddies from around the United States.

“The Evans Scholarship Program has provided a truly exceptional opportunity to our students over the years,” said Emily Anderson, one of two college counselors at Fenwick. “Again this year, the selection committee has granted full scholarships to these four seniors. We are proud and grateful.”

Chick Evans

Legendary amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans (left, 1890-1979) aspired to send deserving caddies to college. Sponsoring country clubs can nominate a young man or woman possessing “a strong caddie record, excellent grades, outstanding character and demonstrated financial need,” according to the WGA.

Evans Scholarship Facts

Since they were first awarded to NU students in 1930, more than 11,000 young men and women have been awarded Evans Scholarships to some of the nation’s top universities. Presently, 965 students receive the award. On campus, they live together in a Scholarship House owned by the WGA’s Evans Scholars Foundation. Four additional statistics:

  1. The average value of an Evans Scholarship is $100,000
  2. The college graduation rate for Evans Scholars is 95%
  3. Evans Scholars’ collective, cumulative GPA is 3.3
  4. The program’s scholarship costs exceed $20 million annually